Oxen are a lot of work and create a lot of mess – so if I don’t have any oxen, I don’t have to keep their feeding trough (manger) filled with food. But, without an ox, I can’t expect to till much land or bring in much of a harvest.
That would have made life extremely difficult for me and my family in ancient Israel. By Solomon’s time, the typical Israelite farmer may not yet been able to own their own ox – but their extended family could probably share one.
This proverb isn’t much different than the modern wise saying, “you have to spend money to make money.” It costs something – in money and mess – to have an ox or two, but they give you the opportunity to produce so much more then you ever could have done without them.
Life can get messy, but family, ministry and caring for others is worth it. Alfred Tennyson was right when he wrote, “Tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.” It’s worth the effort.